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Today on Twitter, Press Secretary Sarah Sanders praised Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the government agency facing the brunt of criticism for its behavior under President Donald Trump. That’s because on Monday the agency deported one of the last living Nazis in America.
For many years a Nazi forced labor camp guard had been living in NY - a terrible injustice. Past Administrations failed to deport him. Today, @realDonaldTrump got the job done! ICE has removed this despicable Nazi from our great country. https://t.co/yBaboYK5N5— Sarah Sanders (@PressSec) August 21, 2018
ICE deported Jakiw Palij this morning, returning him to Germany. Palij has been accused of working at the concentration camp at Treblinka during the Holocaust. Palij has defended himself as an 18-year-old who was conscripted against his will.
Afterward, the administration released the following statement:
President Trump commends his Administration’s comprehensive actions, especially ICE’s actions, in removing this war criminal from United States. Despite a court ordering his deportation in 2004, past administrations were unsuccessful in removing Palij. To protect the promise of freedom for Holocaust survivors and their families, President Trump prioritized the removal of Palij. Through extensive negotiations, President Trump and his team secured Palij’s deportation to Germany and advanced the United States’ collaborative efforts with a key European ally.
We can all agree that’s good, as Nazis are bad and they should face justice for their crimes against society and humanity.
There’s just a tidbit of irony here, as ICE’s indiscriminate rounding up of people of color in America has been compared frequently to the behavior of Nazi Germany. And many of Trump’s most ardent far-right supports have indulged in white supremacy propaganda. There have also been charges of anti-Semitism within the administration, especially after Trump’s comments following last year’s neo-Nazi rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.
While the comparisons are somewhat hyperbolic and have resulted in a person working for ICE being falsely accused of being a white supremacist, Twitter was tossed up a softball here, so of course, users ran with it.
*spidermans pointing at each other meme* https://t.co/E7iDGW5Y9k— tasty munch (@horny4airbud) August 21, 2018
BREAKING: Not content with taking leadership of the American white nationalist movement after Charlottesville, Trump orders ICE to make him the top actual Nazi in America. https://t.co/zMlSdY55mD— Alex Christensen (@AlejoEC) August 21, 2018
Trump tower raid?— Dale Wood (@DaleWoodd0) August 21, 2018
You’d think Sanders would see the irony of this one before tweeting it out, but no! https://t.co/8R0Vyccnyu— Alicia Mae (@AliciaMae_O) August 21, 2018
Removing a 95 year old Nazi vs supporting the neo-nazis wearing MAGA hats. Which is worse, hypocrite? https://t.co/9HlObHRweh— Sidney David Alberts (@Hungry24Joey) August 21, 2018
That said, people were proud of ICE’s actions for returning an accused war criminal to stand trial.
While my opponent @RepYvetteClarke compares @realDonaldTrump and @ICEgov to Nazi Germany, ICE is now rounding up actual Nazis and sending them back to Germany.— Lutchi Gayot (@LutchiGayot) August 21, 2018
Thank you @POTUS, Job well done. https://t.co/MTsQ5NjhL5
Given that Palij has been living in the U.S. since 1957, and that cameras just so happened to follow this arrest made by an embattled agency 19 months into Trump’s presidency, people couldn’t help but wonder if it was a bit of a PR stunt.
This is so confusing. Was this supposed to win over liberal support of ICE? Like why are they trying to prove their stance against Nazis when it should be a complete given? https://t.co/zWut0f2VHn— Paulity Assurance (@maptheirdreams) August 21, 2018
Or perhaps he deported a Nazi just to own the libs.
Trump just deported this decrepit old man to trap anti-ICE people into defending a literal Nazi. Sit back and watch. https://t.co/VXdlLsDcVp— Sn0wballz (@Sn0wBallz) August 21, 2018
Under the Obama and Bush administrations, a number of Nazis living in the U.S. were found to have not been deported, despite being stripped of their citizenship and ordered out by the government. According to the report, the administration chose not to deport them because of health concerns, and questions of jurisdiction surrounding their crimes. Of the four on the list in 2013, three passed away and only Palij remained.
David Covucci is the Layer 8 editor at the Daily Dot, covering the intersection of politics and the web. His work has appeared in Vice, the Huffington Post, Jezebel, Gothamist, and other publications. He is particularly interested in hearing any tips you have. Reach out at [email protected]